Appalachian State had to win last week to be in this spot and now get to the inaugural Sun Belt Championship after losing just two Games all year. Louisiana is here after winning its final three Games even though it still had three Conference losses. The Mountaineers were -16.5 point home favorites with an over/under of 58.5 as of Wednesday.
These teams met just over a month ago with Appalachian State controlling most of the Game in a 27-17 win. The Mountaineers ran for 266 yards on 5.5 yards per carry, while the Ragin’ Cajuns were at just 140 rushing yards on 3.4 ypc. Both of these teams are built around power running Games and it’s hard to see either quarterback being a big factor after both starters averaged less than 5.5 yards per attempt in the first meeting.
Louisiana held its ground most of the season with only one of its losses coming unexpectedly to Coastal Carolina. Otherwise, it fell to two SEC teams and then two other road Games against Sun Belt teams that had a combined two Conference losses. It wasn’t an easy season, but in a bad West division, the Ragin’ Cajuns did enough. As for App. State it was a little different because it won every Game by double digits outside of the overtime loss to Penn State and the surprising 34-14 loss at Georgia Southern.
The Mountaineers are favored by this much because they were up 27-10 in that first meeting until the final drive when Louisiana added a touchdown that didn’t mean anything (App. State was favored by 24). App. State has the better defense and that’s why it will win this Game, holding opposition to just 123 rushing yards and 3.4 yards per carry compared to Louisiana’s 208 yards allowed and 5.0 ypc. Louisiana’s defense was the issue in the first meeting and it will be again.
The Mountaineers base their offense around a mobile quarterback in Zac Thomas (400 rushing yards) as well as a slew of running backs led by Darrynton Evans (968 yards) and Marcus Williams (482 yards). As a team, they are averaging 5.8 yards per carry and likely won’t see any resistance in this matchup. Because of that ground Game, Thomas has had some success when asked to pass with just Four interceptions along with 18 touchdowns on 8.24 yards per attempt. Every number points to App. State getting out to a lead with its running Game, while Louisiana needs to have some tricks up its sleeve to have success.
The Cajuns also base their offense around a ground Game between Trey Ragas (1,040 yards), Elijah Mitchell (866 yards) and Raymond Calais (711 yards), but they only averaged 3.4 ypc in the first meeting. Starting quarterback Andre Nunez has 19 touchdowns, yet five of those came against lowly New Mexico State and he’s struggled against the best teams in the Sun Belt. It wouldn’t be surprising if they gave backup Levi Lewis a few more looks since he’s been impressive getting action in every Game this year, throwing for seven touchdowns and 10.73 yards per attempt on 51 pass attempts.
The spread is exactly where it should be, which is why this Game will be difficult to pick a side. The team playing at home is better on both sides of the ball and that may be the most important note. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 4-1 ATS in their last five on the road and 4-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The Mountaineers are 12-3 ATS in their last 15 overall and 7-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The under is 4-1 in the last five meetings between these schools and the road team is 4-1 ATS in the last five.
Our Pick – UL LAff +17